In the fall of 2008, while Michael Morozov was studying at the Schulich School of Business at Toronto’s York University, there was a strike by the union representing contract professors, teaching assistants and graduate assistants. It only ended after 85 days, breaking records as the longest Canadian university faculty strike ever (a distinction it still holds today).
With their studies interrupted for nearly three months, some students travelled for extended vacations, while others worked part-time jobs, but Morozov decided to go door-to-door, offering window cleaning services to residential customers.
At the time, his primary goal was just to make some extra spending money for the following summer. He had to max out his student credit card to purchase ladders, squeegees, buckets and a used minivan, but his entrepreneurial spirit paid off.
“I started making very good money,” he recalls. “Upon graduation, I told my parents I was going to stay with this window cleaning company full-time. Given I had been pursuing a career in investment banking, it certainly wasn’t what they expected to hear!”
Starting with a small team of door-to-door sales representatives and window cleaners, the company—then known as Gold Standard Property Care—seized an open opportunity to better commercialize and consolidate what Morozov saw as an archaic industry with no clear leaders.
“There were no big players, just mom-and-pop operations,” he explains. “Growth was stagnant, but it did not need to be.”
Rare in its industry
Today, Morozov is founder and CEO of a business headquartered in Vaughan, Ont., with 250 employees and more than 25,000 clients across North America, which it serves through more than 18 corporate locations.
These clients include not just the homeowners who started it all, but also many large commercial customers, including Toronto’s municipal government, PCL Construction, Honeywell, Caesars Entertainment, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and Brookfield Asset Management, among others.
“Cleaning high-rise towers is very capital-intensive work,” says Morozov, “yet there is still a lot of opportunity at hand, with no big players dominating the industry.”
The fast-paced growth of the business can be credited to a forward-thinking approach, bringing innovation to an established, multi-billion-dollar market. All of the labour, for example, is handled by in-house cleaners who have gone through an extensive on-boarding process, rather than by subcontractors.
“This is rare in our industry,” says Morozov. “It allows us to ensure better quality control.”
Also, the window cleaners start out only on residential jobs before working their way up to taller commercial buildings, by which point they are already highly competent and detail-oriented.
“Our employees are hand-picked for the quality of their workmanship, their work ethic and their commitment to doing what’s right for the customer,” says Morozov. “We ensure they are fully trained and certified before they are sent out to the jobs that best fit their skill sets.”
Becoming a one-stop shop
At the same time, Morozov added further services that could be provided by the same staff. Window cleaners were trained to clear eavestroughs, for example, and power-wash exterior walls.
“Window cleaning remained our bread and butter, but when people started asking us for other services, we added them—not all at once, but on an as-needed basis,” he explains. “Sometimes your customers tell you what the market demands and you just need to listen.”
These additional services have included solar panel cleaning, window caulking, gutter guard installation, festive lights installation and even chandelier cleaning.
“This way, rather than searching for a contractor for each service needed around the house, we can meet all of our customer’s home maintenance requirements,” says Morozov. “We are a true one-stop shop, saving our customers time, money and a great deal of frustration.”
This emphasis on customer service has helped the company stand out from its competition, but also ensured a return on investment (ROI) for its focused sales efforts.
“Through my experience in this industry, I’ve realized it is 10 times cheaper to keep a customer happy than to find a new one,” says Morozov.